The second session I attended was titled: Hey Let’s Go: Building a social networking site using Web2.0 technologies
HeyLetsGo is a site, currently focused on Boston, that pulls together social networking and events: you can see what your frieds are going to (or saying they are going to), and talk about where you are going or have gone to. The presenter was Rebecca Xiong, one of the founders of the site, and Geoff Menegay, the lead developer / technical architect.
It offers photo sharing, location information (show events near me), restaurants, reviews, etc.
The basic problem they see themselves being able to solve is people having too much difficulty being able to find out what is happening, planning their upcoming weekend, and see what other people are doing. Each person registered has a profile, can sign up for events, identify other users as friends, join groups, and comment on events. Most of the events come from automatic feeds or end-users, some come from the staff. Once a month they throw their own party, sometimes co-sponsored with other local groups.
Events have a “buzz level” determined by the system which moves the most interesting events to the top -this buzz level is based on what other people have looked at, commented on, said they plan to attend, etc. Events can be rated by attendees, and you can see who attended an event.
They also call in related data from public APIs – In the case of music, for example, if there is a concert, they go out to web services and pull up related info – what all the band’s albums are, news stories about the band, etc.
The eventual goal is to build a destination site, get paid via advertising revenue. (I didn’t see much in the way of advertising up now – of course they are still in Beta). Right now focused on the Boston Market, looking to expand later. Target market is people 25-35 (MySpace is really for people under 20).
Oh great, now I’m even too old for the older-people social networking sites (I turned 36 a week ago).
A. Not for kids, male/female balance is 50/50. “People our age” prefer this. Basically we try to be more real, local, and grown up than MySpace.
Q: Events data is notoriously messy – how do you clean it up?
A: Lots of different sources – public (stubhub data feed – 200MB xml file each night), user posted data, de-duping and cleansing is a constant struggle – some human intervention.
Q: Are you exporting data?
A: We don’t really see ourselves as the “be all end all” of event data – we’re more interested in the community.
Q: How do you manage your communities? How do you prevent people from posting inappropriate content, for example?
A: We have less issues – our audience is more mature, engaged professionals – less likely to do spamming, posting porno, etc. But community policing will be part of the answer as well – letting people flag events, venrues, whatever which are invalid.
Q:What technologies are you using?
A: LAMP based – coded by us. Not really leveraging other services / frameworks that already exist – building our own.
We’re relying on amazon rss for album and artist info, Yahoo news feeds for news stories in related spots. Also the map api for google – restaurants displayed on top of a map. Geocoder.us for Geocoding.
Q: How long has the site been up? How many people are using it?
A: The site has been up about 6-7 months, about 3500 users in the Boston area.
People who use it love it, but how do you get over the hump of getting people to sign up? Basically the people who use it are the best sellers of it.
A few folks in the crowd noted that what is missing is the ability to show events that match my interests, location, and time, at a more granular level – what’s going on now, near me, that I might like. Many events run over several days and the data isn’t granular enough to know at 10am the event is active or at 10pm during one of the three days it runs.
Aside from feeling too old (people our age?), the whole site made me feel like I don’t get out enough. It’s like the Neilsen ratings – people will say they are going to events they feel they should be going to, not necessarily those they actually did go to. Who has time to go to all these things? 25 year-olds I guess.
The problem with Web 2.0 social networking sites is that everyone wants to be the destination: the hub that collects data from all the spoke sites and aggregates it. That’s where the ads are, and where the eyeballs can be monetized (pardon the expression). I guess there’s room for 2-3 networking sites for 25-35 year olds in most metropolitan areas, but somehow it all feels very temporary – this can’t be the long term answer.